No, it's not right out. The Bible says about the Bible, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17) Paul also tells the same guy, Timothy, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15) That is, "the word of truth" can be handled rightly or incorrectly. It takes work, diligence, effort, and, of course, the Holy Spirit sent to lead His own to all truth.
Yet, the Bible has fallen largely into disfavor these days. It once held the respect of unbelievers in America, even if they disagreed with its key points. They denied its truth, but found a lot of wisdom in it. Nowadays, however, self-styled Christians find it questionable at best. We know today, for instance, that the Bible is not clear on homosexual behavior (according to the Jen Hatmakers and Matthew Vines of this world and in direct opposition to the entire history of biblical interpretation prior to the 20th century). American Christians seem to be biblical illiterates. A reported 88% of Americans say they own a Bible and the average household has 4.4 Bibles, but so very few -- even Christians -- are being diligent about reading it or "rightly handling the word of truth".
A.W. Tozer chalks this up to youth ministry in the '60s. Okay, an oversimplification, perhaps, but he has a point. Back in 1963 he was complaining about how youth ministries were aiming more toward entertainment than teaching. He said that the common practice was to maximize entertainment and minimize serious instruction. This was followed by youth who became ministers and have geared all of church toward amusement rather than depth. Sermons must be fun. Worship must be light. Tozer says that even church architecture tends toward housing "the golden calf" rather than worshiping the Creator. "But we are winning them," his detractors assured him. "Winning them ... to what?" he asked. Not to true discipleship. Not to "take up your cross and follow Me." Not to separation from the world. Not to self-denial or discipline. Not, as it turns out, to biblical Christianity -- a following of Christ. Of course, that's just Tozer. Still, the fact is that church attendance and church membership is down along with biblical literacy and biblical Christianity.
Then there's this. A recent study says, "Churches that are theologically conservative with beliefs based on a literal interpretation of the Bible grow faster than those with a liberal orientation."
Among the key findings are:Another interesting thing. They reported that "about two-thirds of congregations at growing churches were under the age of 60, whereas two-thirds of congregations at declining churches were over 60." Wait, that's wrong, right? Conservative, growing congregations had younger people while declining, liberal congregations were older? Strange.
- Only 50% of clergy from declining churches agreed it was “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians”, compared to 100% of clergy from growing churches.
- 71% of clergy from growing churches read the Bible daily compared with 19% from declining churches.
- 46% of people attending growing churches read the Bible once a week compared with 26% from declining churches.
- 93% of clergy and 83% of worshippers from growing churches agreed with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb”. This compared with 67% of worshippers and 56% of clergy from declining churches.
- 100% of clergy and 90% of worshippers agreed that “God performs miracles in answer to prayers”, compared with 80% of worshippers and 44% of clergy from declining churches.
So, what will it be? Maximum fun or biblical Christianity? Entertain them or teach them the deep truths of God's Word? Where do we go from here?